What Nurses Wear

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What nurses wear in patient care settings is a long and hotly debated subject. Years ago we all wore white uniforms and shoes and the females – caps. We stood out and were easily identifiable as nurses. Then the trend became to wear scrubs and nurses faded into a generic sea of healthcare workers, indistinguishable in many cases from techs, aides, physician residents, therapists, housekeeping staff, unit secretaries, etc.

Once scrubs became the norm, we started to get “creative” with various patterns, sports team logos, cartoon characters, hearts and logos, etc. With or without the patterns, it remained hard for patients and visitors and even some staff members to know who’s who. The name badges we wear are often covered with sweaters or lab coats or flipped over so our name, credentials and title are obscured.

Many hospitals have gone to color-coded scrubs so that both patients and staff can tell who’s who. Read about one such hospital that instituted this change www.daytondailynews.com

My husband was recently hospitalized and the facility he was in used this system. I can’t tell you how great it was to know who the nurses were at a glance and to be able to immediately identify who walked into the room or know who to flag down in the hall when we needed something. It’s an idea whose time has come.

6 thoughts on “What Nurses Wear”

  1. I work at one of Boston’s larger academic institutions. The policy is that we all wear hospital-issued blue scrubs. OK, these scrubs are scratchy and ill fitting and wrinkled when you go pick them up, but I appreciate the concept behind them. 1. Nurses are supposed to come to work in their civilian clothes, put on clean scrubs for the shift, then take them off and drop them at the laundry before leaving the hospital. When I think of the bugs I can pick up at the hospital and spread to the world on my commute home, I understand this approach. 2. If all nurses wear blue scrubs, all physicians wear seafoam green scrubs, all aids wear dark blue scrubs and all janitorial personnel wear kelly green scrubs, no one is ever confused about who to ask for medicine and who to ask for a clean bathroom. Admittedly, I have my own blue scrubs I bring to work and change into. I’m allergic to the chemicals and starches our hospital uses in theirs, plus the scrubs are ill fitting and wrinkled, making me feel much less professional than a person in well fitting and pressed clothes. But many of my contemporaries wear cutesy scrubs with hello kitty and cartoon hearts and teddy bears on them, which I think is unprofessional in an adult-care setting. We wouldn’t be allowed to wear corporate logo clothes or childish patterns in the business word setting, why should we wear our favorite sports logo in a hospital setting and be taken seriously? Scrubs are wonderful in both their comfort and increased utility (it’s easier to pull someone off a stretcher and onto a bed when you’re wearing pants, isn’t it?). But we work in an environment where our patients and their families shouldn’t have to struggle to know what member of their healthcare team has just walked in the room…. they’re in the hospital for a reason and isn’t that struggle enough? Creating a color coded uniform policy is an easy way to bypass this confusion, contributing to our shared goal of maximizing a person’s comfort and knowledge of their environment while undergoing a stressful event in their life. Of course, I also believe in having your nametag visible at all times and promptly identifying yourself each time you encounter your patient. These are simple things that make a big difference! I say bravo to hospitals that are instituting this policy as I’ve seen firsthand the difference it makes.

  2. What happened to professionalism? It’s gone out the window. My husband was in the hospital in 2006 and most recently 1 month ago and received the most unprofessional care I’ve ever witnesses. Thanks to their negligence I buried him on May 5. I’ve been an RN for 36 years and while I know there are good RN’s out there, there seems to be a gross shortage of them in central IN. I got copies of the nurses notes and there were shifts with no documentation. The notes from his last day were filled with untruths, disputed documentation of my statments to his nurse, and notes that didn’t describe his actual condition at all. It seems to me, with the white professional appearance went the ability to care.

  3. I work at a trauma center in Louisville, KY. I am an RN. I also have my SANE license and FNE certification. Us SANE nurses received a call yestersday stating that the SANE nurses and FNE nurses were no longer allowed to wear those credentials within the hospital unless thery were here for an exam. They stated that it was confusing to the patient’s. These are credentials were earned. Others in the hospital display CCRN, RNC, etc. What are your thoughts>?

    1. Maureen, It is challenging to respond to your post without knowing all the particulars. You don’t say who called or why the decision was made. I don’t even know what department you work in. I would need to know what the policy/local regulations are related to SANE nurses in your facility and local area. Because there are so many variables, I suggest that you contact the national office of the International Forensic Nurses Association and/or local network of forensic nurses to see how other nurses/facilities are handling this.

  4. When I was a student in the late 80s, only OR staff wore scrubs. RNs wore white pants (starched of course) and a solid colored top. 20+ years later, I can’t even find non-scrub nursing uniforms. I think the lack of professionalism and compassion stem from the profession itself not having the power to decide what makes a good nurse, not weeding out those who lack critical thinking skills, and not having a standardized point of entry for the profession. Many people hae chosen nursing as a second career-after their original job went overseas or their plant closed. For many people, nursing is seen as a paycheck-not a profession. Everytime I see nurses in scrubs with Tweety bird, flowers, peace signs, whatever, I’m convinced that soon the entry level for “professional” nurses will be a high school diploma or GED. If another RN shows up to an interview with jeans and flip flops, I’m not even going to waste my time speaking with them.

  5. Maureen Fogarty

    I finally did it after 22 years. I am now an ICU and We nurse and ER Nurse for four legged and furry and appreciative patients who do not eat big macs, smoke and drink, over eat, do not exercise and then want you to dix them. Could care less about you education and just want pain meds and a warm. Blah, blah, blah, blah, heard enough stop stuffing your face, get off disability, be a productive member of society, stop procreating. Sad that people make me cringe. The best things in life are FURRY!!!

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